In the era of social distancing, self-imposed quarantine, and international travel restrictions, it would be understandable to worry about the feasibility of collaborating with other creatives. The good news is, we’re also in the midst of a golden age of collaborative platforms, so working on tracks with friends, musicians, and other producers remotely – and even jamming with them in real-time – has never been easier.
Conventional DAW Collaboration
The most traditional method of collaboration would simply be to swap project files online, and cloud-based file-sharing services such as Dropbox and WeTransfer transmit large files with relative convenience and ease. If this is the case, ideally you’ll be working in the same DAW, but even then, there are some considerations to take into account:
- Make sure you’re using the same DAW version or files may be incompatible
Include a text file or edit the project file’s built-in note editor with project key info and pertinent updates
- Be sure to “Collect all and save…” or equivalent to transfer all relevant files along with the project
- Compare your plug-ins at the outset and try to only use plug-ins you have in common – or simply use native DAW devices until the mix down phase
- If unshared plug-ins are essential from the outset, bounce or freeze tracks relying on them before sharing with the party that doesn’t have them
The popular sample subscription service, Splice, offers an online collaboration, sharing, and change-tracking communication for DAW project-swapping called Splice Studio, which avoids the need for text notes or external file-sharing services, making it a great option for offline DAW collaboration so long as all contributors have Splice accounts and are using either Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, or Garage Band. For those without Splice, PiBox is another worthwhile option to share audio project files with timed in-line comments, version history, and other features.
Cloud-Based Collaborative DAWs
For those ready to explore beyond the confines of their preferred DAWs, there’s been a recent proliferation of cloud-based DAWs that expand the capabilities of real-time collaboration.
The brilliant minds behind the Ohm Force plug-ins have created a full-featured, cloud-based DAW solution called Ohm Studio complete in-project chat, private tracks so other collaborators won’t hear what you’ve been cooking up until it’s properly ready to share, and the ability to use whatever plug-ins you want and freeze them so other collaborators can hear the result even if they don’t have those plug-ins themselves.
Amped Studio offers a sleek and comprehensive browser-based DAW complete with an expansive library of MIDI and audio loops as well as unique instruments and tools such as their XYbeatZ drum pattern generator. Their HumBeatz feature instantly translates melodies you hum and beats you beatbox into MIDI. Plug-ins come in their own proprietary WAM format, with add-ons available at Wam.fm – with additional WAMs included in the paid premium version of their platform.
Similarly, Soundation offers a full-fledged browser-based DAW with a sleek, modern interface, access to a huge collection of sample content, easy-to-use in plug-in effects, and intuitive collaboration features.
While they work towards realizing their well-exceeded Kickstarter to produce a cloud-based, DAW-agnostic, real-time collaboration VST plug-in, the iOS app from Endlesss allows for exhilarating real-time collaboration with private groups of curated musicians and friends – or in public forums to jam and remix instantly with strangers. Jams can be easily exported to audio stems and used in a variety of DAWs.
With these powerful tools and other enticing options such as AudioTool, AudioSauna, BandLab, and Kompoz, there’s no shortage of platforms practically begging anyone with an internet connection to start collaborating online. So, even if you’re trapped at home: what are you – and your collaborators – waiting for?